The Avengers are enjoying an all-time high with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, specifically, Avengers: Endgame, which has become the highest grossing film of all time. These days everybody is familiar with the likes of Iron Man, Thor or Captain America, and even more cult favorite characters like Black Widow or Hawkeye. But, do you know which are the best Avengers comics you should read to call yourself a real Avengers fan?
It’s only natural that we take a look at the comics that started the legacy of these characters and warranted them a place in the minds of millions of superhero fans all over the world. And while the Avengers never enjoyed in mainstream comics the same level of popularity and commercial success that they are enjoying now, I have to say that they did put out some incredible and phenomenal stories throughout the years.
World conquerors, galactic threats, time-shattering events… the Avengers have faced all these threats and they have come on top, so here we present you the 15 best Avengers comics you must read.
Readers, assemble! (Okay, it was an obvious comment, but I had to do it!)
Writer Brian Michael Bendis is known for doing things his way and he has no qualms in making radically changes to his titles’ status quo, which is what has made him a very divisive writer to this day. So when he created Dark Avengers, we can say that it could go either way, but it was an interesting experiment that is worth your time.
Norman Osborn, who was at the time working for the US government as the Iron Patriot and he seemed to have reformed, was requested to form a new Avengers team and so he did by selecting multiple villains and disguised them as the superheroes that we know and love. So, instead of actually having Hawkeye, you have Bullseye dressed as Hawkeye, to mention an example.
The concept was very interesting and Bendis wrote stories where these villains doing some super heroics just to keep the people from discovering that they were not the real deal. Add to that the wonderful Mike Deodato artwork, which is some of the best at Marvel Comics in this century, and you have a very entertaining story.
I’m one of those guys that believes that you should read the classic 60s comics because they offer very creative and imaginative storylines that people can enjoy, but I also understand if the style is not suitable to a lot of new readers, which I think is something Marvel agrees with since they released Avengers: Mighty Origins in 2016, which is a retelling of the team’s origins in a modern and updated fashion.
Legendary Hulk writer Peter David is a pro and truly knows his Marvel lore, so he is capable of adapting the Avengers’ beginnings to the modern era without losing the spirit and originality that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave to the title in the 60s. It’s a story that is entertaining, cohesive and very well-written, so if you want to get started on the Avengers, this might be the best point for you.
Bendis took a big risk when he separated the Avengers back in 2005 and even a major one by creating a new lineup that was quite different to what came before on this opening storyline of the New Avengers.
In this story we see the classic Spider-Man Electro leading a breakout on the prison called The Raft, where many of Marvel’s villains are locked. To handle this crisis, Captain America decides to create a new roster of Avengers with a very interesting lineup: Iron Man, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Spider-Woman.
I would say that this was the period when Bendis was at his creative peak and he managed to pull off something that could have gone wrong on many different levels, but this New Avengers storyline was really good and written with a modern touch that is going to appeal to modern readers. David Finch’s wonderful art doesn’t hurt the story, either.
During his time working with the Avengers title, writer Kurt Busiek was resisting the urge of telling as many stories as possible in such short time, according to his own comments, but that didn’t stop him from producing many interesting comics such as this Avengers Forever maxi series.
This series is a love letter to the Avengers title and to their longtime fans by exploring many different points of the team’s history, so I would advise you to be well-versed on these characters and this team before reading it because you’re going to miss many different references and plots that are important but you’re going to miss simply because you haven’t read what happened decades before.
Having that, Avengers Forever is a wonderful example of showing the Avengers at their more heroic and a tribute to what they represent as Marvel’s top superhero team.
Mark Millar is a writer known for experimenting and giving established characters a new spin by adding darker and more cynical elements, so when he was given free reign with the Avengers he wrote The Ultimates, a version of the iconic team set in another universe.
The Ultimate Universe was created in the early 2000s to give Marvel readers a more accessible and more starting point, so Millar created what he considered a more mature and realistic concept of how the Avengers would get together and be like, so these are slightly more cynical and morally ambiguous versions of the characters that we know and love.
I personally have no problem with these changes given that Millar did it outside the main continuity and was a very well-written story, with a lot of action, drama and proper shocks that you wouldn’t see in a regular Avengers title.
Bryan Hitch deserves a lot of credit for the artwork in this maxi series: every page looks tremendously well done and it has a cinematographic feel to it that works quite well with Millar’s vision
If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then The Ultimates is the comic for you.
While this is a story that involves the entire Marvel Universe, at its heart is an Avengers story and a very conflictive one at that.
Here we have Mark Millar adding several of his Ultimate Universe tropes to the main continuity: after a tragic accident that takes the lives of superheroes and common people alike, the government establishes an initiative where superheroes need to register and work for them; Tony Stark thinks this would decrease the amount of tragedies while Steve Rodgers thinks that this initiative goes against the freedom of the individual, which results in superheroes taking sides in this confrontation and resulting in one of Marvel’s most memorable conflicts.
I have my own personal gripes about Civil War given how it took many out-character decisions (especially from Tony Stark) to happen and escalate, but I can also say that is objectively a good story, even though the lack of heroism from both sides turns this into a somewhat pointless conflict beyond Millar’s sociopolitical commentary.
But as I said before, Civil War is a very interesting story and one that shows one of Marvel’s biggest risks in terms of character development with their most famous heroes.
Also, it´s the story that inspired the 3rd Captain America movie. So if you want to check the real thing, read this story.
Our recommendation is to go straight for the hardcover version, is even cheaper than the softcover, and you won’t be dissapointed.
Jonathan Hickman is a very interesting writer in comics: he has a certain novelistic style that makes for very unique and high concept stories, so when he took the Avengers and New Avengers title, he pulled off some good stories, with Infinity being definitely the best.
Both Avengers group have to face a universal threat which is a race of beings known as The Builders, which is something that has many different ramifications and also has Thanos involving himself in the conflict, which makes for one of the most interesting depictions of the Mad Titan in the last couple of decades.
Hickman is an acquired taste in my view and I think that you need to be very seasoned in comics before jumping to this title. If you are and you have enjoyed the Avengers: Infinity War film and the portrayal of Thanos, then this is a great read for you.
Again, check the price of the hardcover version, it might be even cheaper than buying the digital version… need I say again that I´m a hardcover fan?
Also, while you’re at it, you might also want to check The Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin & George Perez, the story that inspired the latest Avengers movies.
As I said before, Brian Michael Bendis is known for making radical changes to the titles he works in and that is something he did by the very moment he took the Avengers title by breaking up the team with Disassembled.
Many different deaths, events and conflicts are too much for the Avengers and Captain America has no choice but to put an end to the team, ending decades and decades of the entire in the process. At the time, this was big news and it was a storyline that felt really significant considering how a prime superhero team was finally breaking up–but as we learned throughout the years, it was yet another gimmick.
Despite that, this is a very good story and if you have been reading Avengers for a time now, this one is going to be a very emotional ride for you.
It’s funny because while I’m more of a fan of the first The Ultimates maxi series, I have to say that objectively the sequel is a stronger story and it works a lot better as a whole.
Now that Millar and Hitch introduced the team on the first series, now they can focus a lot more on telling the story they want to tell, dealing with the consequences of the heroes’ actions, coping with the chaos created by the Hulk and the public rejecting the Ultimates more and more as time progresses.
It’s more than obvious that Millar thrives in these circumstances and I think that’s what makes this comic so compelling and addictive to read: the dirtier, grittier and darker the story gets, Millar only seems to get better with the story. And Hitch is of course delivering some of the best artwork of his entire career, so it’s a perfect combination that works really, really well.
The Ultimate Universe was a very interesting experiment where we could see our favorite heroes through much more disturbed lenses.
Kurt Busiek’s time on the Avengers title produced a lot of fantastic stories, but having legendary artist George Perez on pencils only took the comic to far greater heights with the remarkable Ultron Unlimited.
Ultron has been one of the Avengers’ longest-running villains in their entire history and here he is deadlier than ever, destroying nations at a whim and becoming a threat that not even the Avengers are sure to defeat.
Busiek resisted the urge to make this a throwback to previous fights with Ultron and actually elevated the character, thus creating a threat that felt very genuine and with our main characters shining once again as the paragons of virtue and heroism they always were in a decade that hadn’t been so kind to them until that point.
George Perez also deserves a lot of praise given that he had been struggling to work regularly on a title on the last decade, but his art here on the Avengers is some of the best stuff he has pulled off in his whole career, so Ultron Unlimited is one of those stories that deserves your full attention.
I have to say that this is a very personal preference of mine given that I’m a huge fan of Carol Danvers when she was Ms. Marvel and this story, at least to me, shows a lot of what she represented as a character and an interesting closure to her time with the Avengers.
In this annual we find Spider-Woman saving a woman drowning close to the Golden Gate Bridge and once she takes to her to the hospital they discover she is Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers. After Charles Xavier uses his powers to find out what happened to her, they understand that the mutant Rogue extracted her powers from her to the point that Carol passed out and was almost comatose.
Meanwhile, the Avengers are struggling to defeat Rogue, who now has Ms. Marvel’s powers, and the story ends with Carol doing one of the best speeches in the history of the Avengers title. I won’t spoil too much because it’s so great.
Legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont pens one of the best single issues of his entire career here and is a testament to the classic way comic books were written in the early 80s. Empathic, heartfelt and with a lot of humanity, this is a story that you must read.
To read this issue, you can buy the original issue (which is quite expensive by now…) or you can find it in collections such as The Greatest Battles of the Avengers, which you can find at a more affordable price.
Jim Shooter, David Michelinie and Bill Mantlo as writers and George Perez, John Buscema and David Wenzel as artists… this is a lineup of creators that would actually fit in an Avengers team! So it’s no surprise that the Korvac Saga is one of the finest stories in the history of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Michael Korvac is a villain from the 30th century that escapes to the past to avoid getting captured and in this era he absorbs the Power Cosmic, basically becoming a god and having unmatchable power. The Guardians of the Galaxy of the 30th century (a lineup that doesn’t have much to do with the films’ version) come to our time and team up with the Avengers to face Korvac in an epic confrontation.
This is classic Avengers at their finest and one of the most compelling stories of the 70s, with everybody bringing their A-game and Korvac being one of the most dangerous and unstable villains that these heroes have ever faced.
Great story done in the best possible manner.
One of my favorite tropes in comics is when a villain has enough of losing and decides to take the battle to the heroes in the most effective manner, which is what Under Siege gave us: a remarkable story that shows Baron Zemo invading the Avengers’ headquarters and kidnapping Jarvis, the team’s butler.
What we have here is one of the most amazing battles in the history of the Avengers; Zemo knows how to touch a never with Earth’s mightiest heroes and destroys their headquarters while kicking many of the main characters to the curve. It’s a very visceral and aggressive storyline written in arguably the best era of comics (the 1980s).
A phenomenal story that combines emotional components and a lot of action to make a very classic superhero tale.
Classic superhero stories were not thriving in the early 2000s… and yet Kurt Busiek was still resisting with his Avengers run. And what better way to deliver one of the best Avengers stories than with one of their deadliest villains, Kang the Conqueror?
This story is very unique in the world of comics because of one big reason: Kang tries to conquer Earth… and he succeeds! Earth belongs to him and his son, Marcus, and decides to destroy several monuments of the United States, the entire population of Washington and build monuments of his conquest.
As usual, it’s the Avengers’ love to face this situation and they have to pull off some of their best tricks to win this one, which results in one of the most incredible and finest tales to ever grace Marvel Comics as a whole.
While I’m not a fan of Busiek beyond this run and Astro City, I have to say that what he does here is some of the best writing that I have seen in classic superhero comics; the level of understanding and knowledge that he has about these characters (especially Captain America) is something really remarkable–no one can deny that he is a genuine fan of the Avengers and writes them as someone who is aware of the chance he was given.
The Kang Dynasty: an enthralling, amazing and compelling story that shows you what the Avengers are all about. Get it!
And here we are, folks: the best Avengers comic. The Avengers story to defeat all Avengers stories. The Kree-Skrull War is a major milestone in comics and one of those tales that really stays with you throughout the course of time–it’s that good and it’s that entertaining.
The plot is actually incredibly simple: the Kree and Skrull races have hated each other for centuries and now they are going in a full blown war, with Earth and the Avengers caught in the crossfire. We also get to see the first Captain Marvel and member of the Avengers, former Kree warrior Mar-Vell, having a major role in the conflict.
Writer Roy Thomas is one of those legends that have a vast knowledge of comics, but not only on characters and issues, but also on how to tell a proper story in this medium and this storyline is his crowning achievement. Add to that equation three of the most influential and significant artists in the history of the medium such as Sal Buscema, Neal Adams and John Buscema, and you have a team that simply couldn’t fail with this comic.
The Kree-Skrull War is a masterpiece of sci-fi comics and an epic that has transcended throughout the years; the Kree and the Skrull have become a very important part of the Marvel Universe, especially on the cosmic side of things, and their hatred to one another is something that can never be undermined, with this story being a prime example of that very fact.
This is it. The best avengers comic ever written.
Read it before they make the movie (which, by the way, seems to be on plans for a Captain Marvel 2 script…)
The Avengers are, along with DC’s Justice League, the most important superhero group in the history of comics and now that they are enjoying their highest peak of popularity, it’s always very interesting and fun to look back at the best Avengers comics, all these great stories that helped cement their place in the medium.
Do read these stories, and as we always say… keep reading good comics!
About the writer:
Kevin is a Venezuelan writer who loves talking about comic books, literature, films, football and series. Fiction writer. Manchester United supporter. He has written in Spanish and English for various magazines and websites, such as Thundersteel Magazine, Chiesa di Totti, The Busby Babe, Revista Kamandi, Animated Apparel, MusikHolics, Gemr, La Soledad del Nueve, Mariskal Rock, Sail Away.